Show: HARDBALL Date: June 12, 2018 Guest: Vivian Salama, Jon Wolfsthal, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Greatest show on earth. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
An American leader owes his country more than a 24/7 circus of tweets, personal attacks and self-celebration. Don`t you think? Unfortunately, the latest episode of Trump TV, what else can you call it is all sizzle and no stake. Ask yourself, where is the beef in his meeting with the North Korean despot? The answer is spoiler alert, Kim Jong-un agreed to let us look for the bodies of American servicemen his regime has been hiding for a three quarters of a century. That`s how it got here. How can you not love a guy like that? What a sweetheart this guy, Kim, is. What a caring human being. And then in cases, it`s apparently enough for Donald Trump.
Tonight Trump is flying home after a day of pageantry and theatrics in Singapore. This afternoon, he tweeted got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country. He also complimented this dictator for his great personality and called Kim funny and very smart.
Also, dramatic shift, of course, from a year ago when Trump mocked him as little rocket man and threatened his country with fire and fury. Trump also praised the joint statement he signed with Kim Jong-un calling for new relations between the two country and a commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s a terrific document. It`s a starter but it is a terrific document.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to get rid of all their nuclear weapons?
TRUMP: I think they will. I really believe that he will. I have gotten to know him well in a short period of time.
Yes, sure. It is de-nuking. De-nuking. I mean, he is de-nuking the whole place and he is going to start very quickly. I think he is going to start now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the joint statement from the two leaders seem to fell short of the President`s own hype. As the "Associated Press" put it, rather than a detailed statement filled with concrete restraints on the north, the documents seemed to amount mostly to a restatement of long assumed principles and an agreement to keep talking. North Korea has promised denuclearization before going back to a 1994 agreed framework. Pyongyang is staying with the United States back then.
At a press conference tonight, overnight, Trump was pressed on how the United States would verify that North Korea follows through. Let`s watch.
TRUMP: We talk about the guarantees and we talk about unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This is the document that we just signed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you discuss with Chairman Kim methods to verify either with the United States or international organizations that very process?
TRUMP: Yes, we did.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have a timetable in mind?
TRUMP: Yes, we did. It will it be verified. It will be verified.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will it be achieve, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Well, it is going to be achieve by having a lot of people there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wasn`t too long ago, though, that you said you defined success of this meeting by North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
TRUMP: That`s what they`re doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you say why you didn`t secure those details in this agreement?
TRUMP: Because there`s no time. I`m here one day. We are together for many hours intensively, but the process is now going to take place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, for President Trump, a lot comes down to his newfound trust in Kim Jong-un. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I believe that he wants to get it done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You trust him?
TRUMP: I do trust him, yes. Now, will I come back to you in a year and you will be interviewing and I will say gee, I made a mistake. That`s always possible. We are dealing at a very eye level. A lot of things can change. A lot of things are possible. He trusts me. I believe, I really do. I mean, he said openly and he said it to a couple of reporters that were with him that he knows that no other President ever could have done this. I mean, no other -- he knows the Presidents. He knows who we had in front of me. He said no other President could have done this. I think he trust me and I trust him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, for more I`m joined by "New York Times" chief White House correspondent Peter Baker. He is also an MSNBC contributor. Former governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson who has negotiated with the North Korean government before. "Daily Beast" columnist Gordon Chang and the vice president for the national security program at Third Way, Mieke Eoyang.
Let`s start in this order. I want to start with Peter about the reporting here. Do we have any evidence to answer what Major Garrett was asking about? Do you have any evidence that there was a worked out plan for verification of any kind or any kind of agreement along those lines?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No. That has to be the product of many months of work. I mean, these are very complicated process. The North Koreans have an estimated 141 different sites as part of their nuclear program. You can`t just sort of walk in there switch off a switch. This is going to be a very complicated negotiation going forward.
First of all, to sort of arrange the logistics, how it works, what kind of time frame it would be, what kind of declaration with North Korea give so that we would have a baseline and know what we were talking about in the first place. We have, you know, our intelligence on it. But they have never made a declaration that the United States is considered to be satisfying. And then you have to figure out how do you verify? How do you actually know that they have done the things they are promising to do? This is the beginning of the process, not the end.
MATTHEWS: Do you have any evidence that the North Korean people who are subject entirely to government supervision as to what they have learned and dictate, have they heard anything about denuclearization? Because I just saw a wire thing that came out on their government news agency that never mentions it. All it does is say we have agreed to withdraw our provocative irritating exercises from the 38th parallel. Did they -- has Kim told his people he is going to denuclearize?
BAKER: It doesn`t sound like. At least not emphasizing that. The report I just saw from there state television indicated they were emphasizing there, you know, the meeting itself, the fantastic he had this meeting with the American President that he was on a peer level in effect with the American President and didn`t talk about denuclearization.
The truth is I don`t know that it matters that much. It`s not like he is worried about popular support and suddenly, you know, they are going to abandon if he gives up nuclear weapons. The point is, in fact, that he could get more popular support if he has able to deliver some economic benefits. That`s the tradeoff that Donald Trump is implicitly suggesting here.
He showed him a video what a future North Korea cook look like, modern and hip and economically prosperous. That`s the deal here that he is trying to get Kim Jong-un to buy into, a vision of a new North Korea that is more like its southern neighbor.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Governor Richardson. And as governor, you have been through this before, positively and sometimes unsuccessfully but you have been great at the particulars of getting people out over there. Are we safer now after yesterday?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Well, yes, we are safer and that there`s a diffusion of tension in the Korean peninsula. South Korea is on a program of bettering relations with North Korea. Japan is still very jittery because they are susceptible to their missiles. China is helpful on the sanctions but they are trying to keep -- they are weakening them.
We are a little better off in terms of tension, in terms of there`s a movement towards normalization. The problem is that we got nothing in the area of timeline specificity and any kind of inspection regime whatsoever.
The North Koreans obviously resisted. And you know, had the administration asked me although Secretary Pompeo did call me once, I would have told them. The North Koreans always want us to go firsts in negotiation. Then maybe they will do something. Well, we went first. We made the mistake. We said that we are going to stop some of the suspend some of the military exercises with South Korea. I would have said, you know, do it concurrently. Don`t give him something right away especially when on the inspection issue on the nuclear, on the missile negotiations, they have given us nothing.
So in 60 days, if they don`t an inspection regime, if they don`t have a specific plan for freezing and destroying some of their nuclear weapons, they have got maybe 60 or their missile sites or conventional weapons, you know, I think they got the better of the deal.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mieke on this. Because what I was struck by is the fact that after this three-quarters of a century, since the Korean War, that still is the actual fighting stopped, we haven`t been able to get our bodies back. I mean, it is the most minimal humane thing. Let us have our bodies back of service people they killed in that war. And now, they say we will let you go look for them about a million bucks a person. Maybe can find somebody here. This is such a small and I would think even repellent offer to us to say, yes, you can go look for the bodies.
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY DIRECTOR, THIRD WAY: Yes. It does nothing to address the security threat to the United States as governor Richardson said. We are not talking about the ballistic missiles that can hit the United States. We are not talking about the nuclear weapons. And allowing the United States to search for POWs and MIAs it`s important to us but many other countries do that. And it`s not like we should have to pay for that privilege. At the same time, when Trump says we are going to stop our military exercises we are undermining our own military readiness for the troops who are there now and their ability to interact with the South Koreans in case of war.
MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump, as I said, delivered a major concessions suspending joint military exercises with the South Koreans. He referred to these exercises, he did, as provocative, the same word used by the North Koreans. He is taking their side of the rhetorical war here. Let` watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talk about pulling troops out?
TRUMP: We didn`t discuss that, no. But we are not going to play the war games. You know, I wanted to stop the war games. I thought they were very provocative but I also think they are very expensive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC, both the Pentagon and South Korea`s military appeared to have been blindsided by Trump`s statement, his concession there. And the "Associated Press" reported Trump`s own advisers and urged him against halting the exercises.
"New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote Kim seems to have completely out negotiated Trump. But it is scary that Trump doesn`t seem to realize this. The cancellation of the military exercises will raise questions among our allies such as Japan about America`s commitment to those allies.
Gordon, that`s the question. If I were Japanese person reading the papers today, I would say wait a minute, we are not even working together to keep ourselves in shape to defend ourselves against North Korea anymore. Why did we stop practicing these alerts and these exercises?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: That would be a grave mistake because our readiness depends on these exercises especially because we have two separate militaries working together, you know. If we can`t deter North Korea, we have got to defend South Korea and these exercises are critical to that. And so, I hope that President Trump reverses that decision because that is a mistake that is going to have problems with our alliances.
And Chris, you are absolutely right about the Japanese. You know, they are looking at the United States as being a selfish power here negotiating to protect itself and not protect its ally, Japan. And there was no mention of the abductees, the Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea. There was no mention of that in the joint statement. There should have been. And I hope that there will be when they come up with a more definitive arrangement.
MATTHEWS: Peter, what is this word (INAUDIBLE) immediate 180s on the Trump front where Mike Pence is out there telling people up on the hill that we are not going to stop our exercises. What gives?
BAKER: Well, there was some confusion about that. Immediately after that, there was a subsequent report saying, no, he didn`t say that. So I haven`t gotten to the bottom of that. But it does indicate how ad hoc (ph) this whole thing is, right.
You know, the President makes an agreement like that. Usually there is some sort of preparation for. There is a roll out plan. There`s a way to inform not only the allies who have finally seem to have been caught off guard but your Republican allies on the hill as well. We take the stuff very seriously. That doesn`t seem to have been as well organized as you might have hoped it would. Certainly this confusion involving what the vice President said up there indicates that.
But that`s sort of what the -- that`s how he rolls, right. That`s -- he is a freewheeling kind of person. He is not somebody -- he said he didn`t need to prepare for this that he would, you know, it would basically go off his gut. And that`s what we are seeing.
MATTHEWS: Well, during his press conference this morning, Donald Trump spoke about Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was imprisoned by North Korea and died shortly after returning home in a coma. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Otto Warmbier is a very special person and he will be for a long time in my life. His parents are the good friends of mine. I think without Otto, this would not have happened. I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain. I told this to his parents, a special young man. And I have to say special parents. Special people. Otto did not die in vain. He had a lot to do with us being here today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to Trump, the issue of human rights was discussed briefly this summit. And Trump said he thinks Kim Jong-un is committed to making change in his country. Let`s watch that part.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They will be doing things. And I think he wants to do things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder what would you say to the group of people who have no ability whatsoever to hear or see this press conference, the 100,000 North Koreans kept in a network of gulags? Have you betrayed them by legitimizing the regime in Pyongyang?
TRUMP: No. I think I have helped them because I think thinks were change. Now at a certain point, I really believe he is going to do things about it. I think they are one of the great winners today, that large group of people that you are talking about. I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Governor, this is Orwellian. I mean, to talk about how they are going to be better off in the gulags because of this friendly meeting down to this date that he had with the Kim Jong-un, the dictator. And also, it`s kind of a grotesquery, isn`t it, to say that somehow a guy who was beaten up, his brain was basically beat up, it comes back barely alive and somehow after the torturing of that guy that somehow led to this summit.
What does that mean? Morally speaking to say somehow he was, I don`t know how to explain why Trump would say that. Your thoughts?
RICHARDSON: Well, I can`t understand why he is saying that. I was involved in trying to get Otto Warmbier back, my foundation, but it was the state department that ultimately did that.
You know, the North Koreans take American prisoners and they use them as bargaining chips. But on the whole issue of human rights, it was not discussed, it barely was discussed, not just the gulags but issues of torture, issue, a lot of these people are starving. They don`t know the how to you coexist. Their agriculture, there are many people are jobless. If you are in the military, and you are members of the elite, yes, you are taken care of.
But I think at the very least, if we are going to promise economic assistance, prosperity investment, that has to be tied in like our foreign assistance programs with improvements in human rights. Allow access to amnesty international and human right watch, United Nations.
I mean, we don`t know how bad things are. I can tell you they are pretty bad even though when I visited eight times. They keep an eye on you. They don`t let you the do anything. I once tried to get into the subway. I barely got in to see how people are. But it`s very restricted what you are able to see, full access, unfettered access to determine how we can improve the human rights situation and the life of these people. This is the poorest nation on earth where a lot of people are starving.
MATTHEWS: Well, all you have to do anybody watch right now is watch any of their parades. Watch anytime they come out in public. They look like they are automatons. The people have to smile exactly in synchronization. They have to behave totally according to what they are supposed to do in that moment. They are freakishly controlled by their government as individual people. There is no freedom in that country. You can see it every time we get a picture of them in one of their parades.
Anyway. Thank you Peter Baker. Thank you Bill Richardson. Gordon Chang, thank you and Mieke Eoyang.
Coming up, President Trump`s praise nor Kim Jong-un beats trading nuclear threats, I guess. But is it too far over the top? He is praying to the guy, practically. Trump called him talented. He said he trusts him. Even said his country loves him. Is Trump helping to flatter this guy to a deal? I think he is treated (ph) in the way he likes to be treated.
Plus new reporting how the President is trying to save himself for Russian investigation. What does it say that Trump`s lawyers now are in cahoots with the lawyers for other people caught up in the Mueller investigation? I guess he believes in multilateralism when it comes to legal defense.
And the HARDBALL roundtable, why Trump spent part of the summit talking about a real estate deals. He is going to bring sandals I goes North Korea? And he is punching at Robert de Niro.
Well, finally let me finish with Trump watch.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Five more states are holding primaries today including South Carolina and Virginia where polls just closed.
In Virginia, all eyes are on the 10th district where Democrats are choosing a challenger to take on vulnerable house Republican Barbara Comstock. Hillary Clinton won that district by ten points in 2016. So Comstock is seen as a key pickup opportunity for the Democrats.
Meanwhile, we are seeing early returns now in the race pitting three Republican candidates vying for the chance to take on Virginia senator Tim Kaine. He was, of course, Hillary`s running mate in 2016.
In South Carolina, Republican congressman and former governor Mark Sanford is facing a strong primary challenge from a pro-Trump candidate. Today Trump tweeted his support for Sanford`s opponent saying Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to make America great. He is MIA and nothing but trouble. Well, Trump added he is better off in Argentina. Of course, in 2009, Sanford famously claim he was hiking in the Appalachian trail when in fact he was carrying on an extramarital affair in Argentina.
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Following yesterday`s historic summit, President Trump is headed back to Washington right now with a blossoming appreciation for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
While in Singapore, Trump heaped praises on the leader, calling him talented and smart.
Let`s watch more of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.
You would be very surprised, very smart, very good negotiator.
Really, he`s got a great personality. He`s a funny guy. He`s a very smart guy. He`s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I`m surprised by that, but he loves his people. I think he liked me and I like him. And I understand the past. And nobody has to tell me he`s a rough guy. He has to be a rough guy, or he has been a rough person.
But we got along very well.
His country does love him. His people, you see the fervor. They have a great fervor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, a lot of individualism, that guy.
This seems part of a pattern of this president, who praises autocratic leaders and bad-mouths our democratic allies. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s a great honor and privilege, because he`s become a friend of mine, to introduce President Erdogan of Turkey. He`s running a very -- a very difficult part of the world. He`s involved very, very strongly. And, frankly, he`s getting very high marks. And he`s also been working with the United States.
We have a great friendship. As countries, I think we`re right now as close as we have ever been.
We have had a great relationship. This has been very successful.
BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": He`s a killer, though. Putin is a killer.
TRUMP: There`s a lot of killers. We have got a lot of killers. What, you think our country`s so innocent?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: That sounds like Michael Corleone in "Godfather" one? You don`t think senators kill people? How naive are you?
Anyway, for Trump, the Singapore summit was an opportunity to make history. But for the North Korean leader, it was a public releases success, cementing his Trump-backed legitimacy on the world stage.
For more, I`m joined by Jon Wolfsthal. He`s former special assistant to President Obama. And Vivian Salama is a White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."
Both of you, why the praises? I can see, we got along OK. We all talk about political communiques like that, constructive talks. You know the language.
He`s coming out like a kiss-butt. It`s outrageous, the way he talks about him. This guy is a killer.
JON WOLFSTHAL, DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR CRISIS GROUP: I only see two plausible explanations. One I think is the more likely, is that Trump is jealous of those people.
WOLFSTHAL: It`s a natural proclivity towards rough guys.
WOLFSTHAL: And he think that is respectable.
MATTHEWS: He wants to ride around on the horse with his shirt off like Putin?
MATTHEWS: Is that what he wants to do?
WOLFSTHAL: I think the other possibility here is that, look, Donald Trump is a salesman, right?
WOLFSTHAL: He`s trying to get this -- butter him up, and say, look, what does it take to get you in this time-share today?
The video he showed was like a time-share, right? What do I do to get to you sign on this line?
If he wins, if he gets the guy to sign and actually follow through, it`s a great deal.
MATTHEWS: OK. You`re an old commie like him. They`re communists. They don`t believe in anything except the state.
VIVIAN SALAMA, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right.
MATTHEWS: And he`s saying you have got to bring Sandals in here. You got to make this a resort. You got use your beach property. You got some great real estate here.
What does old commie -- young commie say to that? What are you talking about? Trump`s talking like some real estate developer, which is what he is.
SALAMA: Well, and he doesn`t really hide that, that he sees these negotiations as part of this boardroom mentality where you have got to talk tough. But you also have to kind of give...
MATTHEWS: Do you think Kim Jong-un wants to loosen up his country and turn it into a resort town?
SALAMA: But many people are rightfully skeptical on it.
But, Chris, I`m actually sitting here because I`m still recovering from G7 coverage which I have just done for the last couple of days, where we are still, to this day -- even in Singapore, when he`s coming off of this historic summit, the president is still trashing Justin Trudeau for criticizing him after he left.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think? Why?
SALAMA: Because of the fact that he feels that Justin Trudeau was unjust in his attack because he did it after the president left.
MATTHEWS: But they weren`t -- those attacks weren`t really attacks. I watched the whole thing. It wasn`t that tough.
SALAMA: And it wasn`t anything new either. It is not something that Justin Trudeau hasn`t said before.
MATTHEWS: Well, while in Singapore ,the president was asked why he had such high praise for Kim and harsh word for allies like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Let`s watch him explain that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: What do you say to America`s allies who worry that you might be jeopardizing our longtime alliances and who worry that you might be treating our historic friends as enemies and our historic enemies as friends?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think it`s a very fair question.
I had a very good meeting with the G7. And I left the meeting. And I`ll be honest. We are being taken advantage of by virtually every one of those countries.
I have a good relationship with Justin Trudeau. I really did. Other than he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn`t watching. He learned, that`s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada. He learned you can`t do that. You can`t do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You like that threat, Jon?
SALAMA: That is a serious threat.
MATTHEWS: You like the kind of threat?
WOLFSTHAL: No. It`s petty.
This is the president of the United States. We`re the most powerful country in the world. And we`re treating our friends, the countries that have fought and died with us to preserve liberty, and we`re treating them like an extortion racket. It`s horrific.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about values.
I don`t want to get too squishy, but the fact is, we believe in values. And the fact is, we like democracies. We like countries where they actually get to pick their leaders, and dump them when they don`t like them.
You don`t like Jimmy Carter, we can get rid of them. We could rid of George Sr., Bush. But we had the freedom to do that.
They don`t have the freedom to dump Kim Jong-un. He`s a third-generation character who inherited a job and he`s probably got it for life. It`s certainly not a democracy.
WOLFSTHAL: This is the debate we were having after the G7, when President Trump, well, let`s let Russia back in.
First of all, the G7 is not just economic powers. They`re economic liberal democracies.
WOLFSTHAL: Russia`s a smaller economy than Brazil, than India, than almost the Republic of Korea.
MATTHEWS: Why does Trump got them in?
WOLFSTHAL: Because he`s Putin`s ally. Either Putin has something on him.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s the question I have.
Does he want -- Vivian, does he want to be allies with North Korea? Friends? It seems like that`s what he wanted. He was dating, with the idea of marrying.
He clearly -- and I`m not kidding. It`s a pretty good metaphor. He wasn`t just saying I`m going to hang out with this guy for one day in Singapore. He was talking up a relationship.
SALAMA: Yes. No, I mean...
MATTHEWS: How can you have a relationship with a dictator like that?
SALAMA: At least in the beginning he wants to see other people. But he`s definitely on the track to date him exclusively. And he think that that`s going to be his legacy.
MATTHEWS: Well, look at his friends he`s made, Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin.
WOLFSTHAL: Trump doesn`t date exclusively. He likes to play around.
MATTHEWS: But he doesn`t like anybody who has been elected.
WOLFSTHAL: Look, it`s Putin, Xi, Kim now, Erdogan. And the people he`s beating up are our closest friends and allies, the Germans, the British, the French, the Canadians. Everything is upside down.
SALAMA: But, Chris, it`s really important to think that we`re going to actually need these allies for a lot of the negotiations coming forward.
SALAMA: We`re talking about China tariffs moving forward. The deadline is this Friday. Just to get China in compliance with some of the demands that this administration is pushing, we actually need our allies to help us sort of form that unified front to get China to comply.
MATTHEWS: I just remember Ronald Reagan, who was a Republican, who believed we were sitting on a hill, and he believed we were a role model.
And he loved the fact -- whatever you think of Reagan, he loved the fact it was a democracy, it was a liberal democracy. People had rights and we got along with the rest of the world. And Reagan always tried to get along with the rest of the world, including communists.
But he did it the right way. He negotiated.
Anyway, thank you, Jon Wolfsthal and Vivian Salama.
Up next: President Trump`s lawyers are working with attorneys for other people who have been caught up in Mueller probe. Is that a sign that Trump`s legal team is worried? He`s actually using multilateral agreements with the other people in trouble with Mueller to save himself.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There`s some recent developments now in the Mueller probe that have been overshadowed in the wake of the president`s North Korean summit. But they`re happening right now.
The Daily Beast is revealing that the president`s legal team has a joint defense agreement now with the lawyers for other witnesses and defendants in the investigation. That agreement allows the lawyers to share information without violating attorney-client privilege, effectively allowing them to pool their knowledge about the prosecution.
According to one source, for a while, the lawyers even had regular conference calls with other lawyers to discuss the Mueller investigation.
While such agreements are fairly common, it suggests that Trump may be familiar with the defense strategies of key witnesses and defendants, including possibly Paul Manafort, who faces a bail hearing and arraignment on new charges this Friday.
On Friday, we`re going to also learn whether Manafort, who now stands accused of witness tampering, will have his bail agreement revoked, which could land him in jail pending trial.
This is serious hardball.
I`m joined by Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney and MSNBC legal analyst now.
OK, let`s skip up to Manafort. I`m fascinated. It looks to me like he is going inside, and he may not get out ever.
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think that that`s a strong possibility.
Prosecutors don`t like defendants who go out and try to tamper with witnesses. Usually, judges don`t like that any more than prosecutors do. He could easily find his bond revoked on Friday.
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s got Hobbesian choice now. He can either wait for a pardon from Trump, who keeps teasing him with one -- and there he is stoically going in and out of court all day -- courthouse -- or he can wait and think that Mueller might get him down to five years or something.
But the way Mueller is stacking up these charges, how can he let him off free after all these charges he`s been throwing at him, including jury tampering or witness tampering?
VANCE: It`s hard to know what kind of deal Mueller might be contemplating giving to Manafort.
I think it`s unlikely, frankly, that he gets a deal where he doesn`t have to do any time in prison. But depending on the information that he would have to share that could make cases against other defendants, he might get some consideration from the prosecution.
MATTHEWS: Do you think lawyers and public interest lawyers and public defenders and ACLU people, do they think that they`re -- that this guy Mueller might be throwing the book at this guy in a hardball way that is really over the top?
Basically, Manafort is being squeezed so hard because everybody thinks he`s going to be the star witness against Trump, that he knows all about it. He was chairman of the campaign. And, before that, he was chairman of the convention. He must have -- since he`s a Russian expert, he must have talked Russia a lot with Trump.
There`s so much they`re trying to get out of this guy. But the way they`re going after him is so hard, so tough. Is it fair?
VANCE: It`s a really good question.
We`re having a conversation about criminal justice reform in this country. You know, we`re talking about whether people should be charged as heavily as they have been and go to jail for as long.
But I would say, in Manafort`s case, the charges very clearly fit the conduct. This is serious conduct. This is white-collar fraud involving millions of dollars and involving foreign countries and our national interests.
VANCE: So, if anyone should be treated this way, it`s Paul Manafort.
McClatchy is reporting now new connections between Russia and the NRA, the National Rifle Association, which spent an unprecedented $30 million to boost Trump`s campaign. That`s the NRA, $30 million in 2016.
According to photographs and an anonymous NRA source, several prominent Russians, some in Putin`s inner circle, have been identified as having contact with the NRA officials during did the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Those Russians hosted an NRA delegation for -- quote -- "a week of lavish wining and dining in Moscow in December of `15." According to McClatchy, they include the Russian prime minister of defense, who was under U.S. sanctions at the time, as well as Aleksandr Torshin, who famously spoke with Donald Trump Jr. five months later at the NRA event in Kentucky.
OK, what`s the common interest of the NRA and Moscow?
VANCE: That`s the $80 million question here, whether there was a common interest in getting Trump elected, then candidate Trump elected, and whether Russian money was illegally funneled into the campaign using the NRA as the cut-out.
MATTHEWS: Is that legal?
VANCE: That`s not legal. You can`t use foreign money in a U.S. election. And you can`t use -- we would call the NRA here a straw person, someone who looks like they`re eligible to make the contribution. You can`t funnel money through them if you`re a prohibited contributor.
So, it would be a conspiracy to contribute money, if the evidence lends that way.
MATTHEWS: Well, what about the NRA? They have been selling themselves since I can remember as the patriotic front in this country, that they care about our country more than anybody and the Second Amendment.
Now, if they`re conspiring with the Russians, they don`t look too patriotic to me.
VANCE: They don`t. And they, of course, have denied all of this. The NRA reports that it has not yet been contacted by Mueller`s prosecutors to tell their side of the story.
So, we will have to see how that plays out.
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a hot one.
Thank you, Joyce Vance.
Up next, the HARDBALL Roundtable weighs in on Trump diplomacy. Why was the president talking real estate potential with the North Koreans? Is Sandals going to Pyongyang?
Plus, fresh off his peace talks, President Trump goes after critic Robert De Niro, calling the actor punch-drunk and very-low-I.Q.
Where does he get this stuff?
You`re watching HARDBALL. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Wait until you get a load of this. After that historic summit in Singapore, President Trump was asked about the future of North Korea, should Kim Jong-un give up the country`s nuclear weapons. The president made this sales pitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they`re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, boy, look at that beach. Wouldn`t that make a great condo?
And I explained and I said, you know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate perspective. You have South Korea, you have China and they own the land in the middle. How bad is that, right? It`s great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, let`s bring in the roundtable. George F. Will is a syndicated columnist and an MSNBC contributor. Anita Kumar is White House correspondent for "McClatchy", and Jason Johnson is politics editor from theroot.com and an MSNBC contributor.
George, I thought I was listening to a real estate developer there.
GEORGE F. WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, you were. He thinks North Korea`s beaches are great, you should see Cuba. If Cuba had in 1959, 1960 decided to open itself up, it would be a tourist Mecca. It would be a very wealthy country.
WILL: It turns out the Castro brothers weren`t interested in that. They had other goals for their dictatorship. The same is true with North Korea. Mr. Trump is demonstrating the ultimate parochialism which is to believe everyone wants what Americans want.
MATTHEWS: Anita, the proletarian in North Korea, I don`t know if they`re ready to have their first Sandals opening or Club Med, I`m just guessing.
What do you think?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: I don`t know. But, you know, he`s had the same message for the last few weeks, few months. But he just didn`t say it quite this way. He keeps saying that if North Korea, you know, goes through with this deal, that it`s going to be better for the people there, that it`s going to be an economic engine.
We heard him say that over and over. He just hasn`t talked about the condos and beaches and the developer stuff. But, you know, that`s what he relates to. He came into office with no other experiences than being a businessman. He likes talking like that.
MATTHEWS: Jason, this fellow we`re watching here with the president has had many years, many years to think about whether he would have nuclear weapons or condos.
JASON JOHNSON, THEROOT.COM: Yes, yes.
MATTHEWS: He`s chosen the nuclear weapons in every instance. I think as of today, the North Koreans have heard nothing about denuclearization, from what I can tell.
JOHNSON: Oh, probably not. And, you know, look, I don`t want to see what kind of hotel service comes from prison camps and slave labor which is what Kim Jong-un has in a lot of places.
And again, I think that the particularly disturbing part about this is, you know, this president is like a walking emoluments clause violation. I mean, he`s literally saying like hey --
MATTHEWS: You think he`s selling his hotels?
JOHNSON: Of course, he`s selling his hotels. He`s not talking about Marriott.
MATTHEWS: It does sound like his pattern.
Anyway, Trump may have been fawning over Kim Jong-un, but he`s got a new adversary in actor Robert de Niro. In Sunday`s Tony Awards night, de Niro slammed Trump in a profanity-laced tirade, saying it`s no longer down with Trump, it`s F Trump. And you can figure out what that word was.
Trump today punched back in Twitter, writing: Robert de Niro, a very low IQ individual, has received too many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I watched him last night and truly believe he may be punch drunk. I guess he doesn`t realize the economy is the best it`s ever been, with unemployment being at an all-time high, and many companies pouring back into our country. Wake up, punchy.
George, your comment on that?
WILL: Why are we commenting on this?
MATTHEWS: Because the president of the United States has spoken about one of the leading actors of our time and they`re not being nice.
WILL: He`s a great actor and he probably as ignorant as broccoli about everything outside the celebrity bubble in which he lives. He gets up in front of a friendly audience and says what they like to hear.
WILL: Reaps the applause.
The president reflexively attacks him and four adults are sitting here and talking about this.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s called trolling today, George, it`s when people want us to get something to say about them.
KUMAR: The audience may have loved Robert de Niro.
MATTHEWS: Where were you on this, Anita? Do you think he have said that about the president of the United States.
KUMAR: Should either of them said --
MATTHEWS: Or should he?
KUMAR: I don`t think either of them should have said it.
MATTHEWS: How about Robert de Niro?
KUMAR: That`s what I`m talking about.
MATTHEWS: Narrow it down, do you think Robert de Niro should have said that?
KUMAR: I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: You seem, what is this? I`m willing to say cultural part of this country has got to maintain some nobility in these times so people can know there`s an alternative to Trump in terms of values and you don`t go to his level.
KUMAR: Both of their audiences love them.
JOHNSON: Civil discourse matters, right? And grown adults aren`t supposed to get on stage and use cuss words, unless at a concert.
And more importantly, and this is what bothers me, did it get anybody elected? Did it put money in anybody`s pocket? Did it any change any policies? Did it stop Jeff Sessions?
MATTHEWS: I think it helps Trump.
JOHNSON: I mean, it helps Trump. It helps the resistance. But I just -- I don`t see why these temper tantrums on either side do any benefit to anybody in America policy.
MATTHEWS: OK, finally, I was a guest on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night. Here`s a clip from that show I think that will cause a little excitement here. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I know you like the movie "Man for all Seasons." And I love that movie --
STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT TV HOST: Yes, sure.
MATTHEWS: -- about Henry VIII and about Thomas Moore, the great Thomas Moore who died for his religion. There`s a great scene when Henry VIII beautifully played by Robert Shaw gets out of his boat and just watch how everybody behaves.
COLBERT: I heard -- I actually -- I heard you like this. We pull this had clip. Show imagine that Shaw is Trump.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MATTHEWS: That`s them. That`s the Republican Party.
COLBERT: Yes, he was a monster, Robert Bolt describes him as a monster who none dared gainsay.
MATTHEWS: Well, today these guys are all like Mike Pence. They do exactly what Trump does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, is that what we`re seeing with the Republican Party after Trump met with Kim Jong-un, they`re all applauding him? George, you spoke eloquently in your column about Mike Pence.
WILL: Well, today, about 85 percent of Republicans have very, very strong approval of Donald Trump. That`s above the 75 percent that had the same feeling for Ronald Reagan at this point in his presidency. This is a Trump Party now.
MATTHEWS: Yes, therefore, say no evil about the president.
KUMAR: We`ve said 10 or 20 times something was the breaking point and they wouldn`t follow him and they are. That doesn`t mean they like it. They`re just quietly might have the anxiety about it.
MATTHEWS: They`re getting (INAUDIBLE) like North Koreans dare I say because they`re marching in step. They`re smiling when told to. They`re applauding when told to. They`re not wearing those big hats but short of that, they`re acting like North Koreans, Republicans.
JOHNSON: Oh, yes. Look, everybody is goose stepping with positions that they did not like a week ago. They`re instep with this president.
But I will say this and this has always been the most important thing sort from a political standpoint. All of this is about Trump. The guy has no coattails. His behavior works well for him but it does not seem to trickle down to the Republican Party as a whole.
Now, if he magically can take that 87 percent approval and actually start moving some races and some --
MATTHEWS: All right. We`ll see tonight, when -- he went after Mark Sanford today. We`ll see if he can knock him off. It makes me like Mark Sanford today.
The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: There`s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Sunday, lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The insults followed a fractious G-7 meeting and came amid a growing war of words over trade with the United States, between us and Canada.
Well, today, Navarro said his language was inappropriate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAVARRO: My mission was to send a very strong signal of strength. The problem is that in conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special place in hell for the prime minister.
NAVARRO: -- basically lost the power of that message. I own that. That was my mistake. Those were my words.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the roundtable.
George, tell me something I don`t know.
WILL: Bill Weld, former two-term governor of Massachusetts, the 2016 vice presidential candidate on the libertarian ticket is working very hard going from state libertarian convention to another, he`ll be in New Orleans at the national detention intending to make a serious run as the presidential candidate of the libertarian party which will be in all 50 states.
MATTHEWS: Well, if it`s Bernie versus Trump, there`s an opening somewhere in the middle.
WILL: That`s exactly what we think.
KUMAR: We posted a story a little bit a while ago about how the Trump administration is looking into creating, erecting tent cities to deal with the increase in the unaccompanied minors coming over the border. This is something done before but not during the Trump administration. And they`re looking at Texas right now. They`ll be at military installations.
JOHNSON: You may know, of course, is the Supreme Court recently ruled that states can now get taxes off of gambling, with Murphy versus NCAA, which you may not know is this may solve one of the biggest educational crisis we have in America. A study just was done for a 25 cent charge on every $100 bet on the NFL in this country, you could actually pay every D1 athlete from golf to football at every college in America.
MATTHEWS: Are we going to have a sports book on politics in elections?
JOHNSON: Oh, yes, just like Ladbrokes in the U.K.
MATTHEWS: Can we do it here?
JOHNSON: Yes, we can.
MATTHEWS: There`s going to be money to be made for us.
MATTHEWS: If the so-called experts like me, go make some money. I can`t wait --
JOHNSON: You can do a free game show.
MATTHEWS: It crews up your commentary once you`ve got a bet down.
Anyway, thank you George F. Will, Anita Kumar and Jason Johnson.
When we return, let me finish tonight within Trump Watch. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: "Trump Watch", Tuesday, June 12th, 2018.
In my old political days, I remember a young candidate coming back from a meeting with the Brooklyn political boss. He was over himself with how well the meeting had gone, how thrilled he was with being in the presence of this tough leader.
"What did he say?" his political consultant asked him. "Oh, he was great. He could not have been more friendly. I can`t tell you how wonderful it went."
"What did he say?" his political adviser persisted. "Did he promise to endorse you?"
"It wasn`t exactly what he committed to. It was kind of how he said it. He was wonderful."
"What did he say? What did he actually promise to do?" the old pro kept at it. "What did he say?"
Finally, the young candidate realized he`d been had. He didn`t say anything.
Donald Trump has just come away from his big meeting with the North Korean leader feeling great. What did he get from that boss? What did Kim Jong actually say about getting rid of his nuclear weapons, about inspections to make sure it`s done? The answer is he didn`t say anything.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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